Sen. Burr: CIA Has ‘Flatly Refused’ to Give Intel Committee Some Benghazi-Related Documents

February 13, 2013 - 5:18 PM
Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers, Saxby Chambliss, Intelligence Committee

Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein flanked by House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers to the left and Senate Intelligence Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss to the right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Richard Burr, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the CIA has “flatly refused” to give some Benghazi-related documents to the committee, which is conducting an investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the State Department and CIA personnel and facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Sen. Burr made the assertion last week at the confirmation hearing for John Brennan, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to be director of the CIA. Brennan currently serves as the president's counterterrorism adviser.

“Mr. Brennan, as you know, the committee's conducting a thorough inquiry into the attacks in Benghazi, Libya,” Sen. Burr said. “In the course of this investigation, the CIA has repeatedly delayed and in some cases flatly refused to provide documents to this committee.”

None of the other members of the committee contradicted Burr’s assertion.

Burr’s Spokesman David Ward later told CNSNews.com that the committee had initially requested the documents in question four months ago.

In light of Burr’s statement, CNSNews.com put some questions to the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) James Clapper. Specifically, CNSNews.com asked: Is it true that the CIA, or any agency under the umbrella of the DNI, has withheld documents, or refused to provide documents, to the Senate intelligence committee that the committee has sought in its investigation of Benghazi? If the administration withheld documents from the committee, on what basis did it do so? And if the administration withheld documents, who was responsible for making the decision to do that?

The ODNI responded with a statement. “Since the attack on our facility in Benghazi, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on behalf of the entire Intelligence Community, has worked closely with members of Congress to respond to all requests for information,” said the statement. “We have testified before committees and delivered numerous briefs, provided thousands of pages of intelligence data and answered hundreds of written questions. DNI Clapper values the strong relationship between the IC and members of Congress and remains committed to being responsive to the requests of our oversight committees.”

At the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks, Gen. David Petraeus was director of the CIA. When Petraeus appeared at his confirmation hearing in the Senate intelligence committee on June 23, 2011, Chairman Dianne Feinstein asked him a set of questions that the committee routinely asks those nominated to run the CIA. At John Brennan’s confirmation hearing on Feb. 7, Feinstein asked Brennan exactly the same questions.

Feinstein asked Petreaus, “Do you agree to provide documents or any other materials requested by the committee in order for it to carry out its oversight and legislative responsibilities?”

“Yes, I do,” said Petreaus.

“Will you ensure that the CIA and its officials provide such materials to the committee when requested?” asked Feinstein.

“I will,” said Petreaus.

“Do you agree to inform and fully brief to the fullest extent possible all members of this committee of intelligence activities and covert actions rather than only the chairman and vice chairman?” asked Feinstein.

“Yes, I do,” said Petraeus.

Last week, John Brennan was equally direct in answering these questions.

Feinstein asked Brennan, “Do you agree to provide documents or any other materials requested by the committee in order for it to carry out its oversight and legislative responsibilities?”

“Yes, all documents that come under my authority as director of CIA, I absolutely will,” said Brennan.

“Will you ensure that the CIA and its officials provide such materials to the committee when requested?” asked Feinstein.

“Yes,” said Brennan.

“Do you agree to inform and fully brief to the fullest extent possible all members of this committee of intelligence activities and covert actions rather than only the chairman and vice chairman?” asked Feinstein.

“Yes, I will endeavor to do that,” said Brennan.

Later in the same hearing, however, when Burr asked Brennan about the documents Burr said the CIA was refusing to give to the committee, Brennan qualified his answer—leaving open the possibility that as CIA director there may be occasions when he would decline to provide documents to the committee.

“Mr. Brennan, as you know, the committee's conducting a thorough inquiry into the attacks in Benghazi, Libya,” said Burr. “In the course of this investigation, the CIA is repeatedly delayed, and in some cases, flatly refused to provide documents to this committee. If confirmed, will you assure this committee that this refusal will never happen again?”

“I can commit to you, Senator, that I would do everything in my ability and my authority to be able to reach an accommodation with this committee that requests documents, because an impasse between the executive branch and the legislative branch on issues of such importance is not in the interest of the United States government,” said Brennan.

“And so it would be my objective to see if we could meet those interests,” Brennan continued. “At the same time, our Founding Fathers did sort of separate the branches of government; judicial, legislative, and executive. And so I want to be mindful of that separation, but at the same time, meet your legitimate interests.”

In November, three days after the federal elections, Gen. Petraeus suddenly resigned as CIA director. At the time of Petraeus’s resignation it was revealed that an FBI investigation had discovered that he had been committing adultery with his biographer, a reserve Army officer.